“If you have ten plans, you don’t have one.” – Tim Sheridan
I love that quote. Granted, it took me a good long time to accept its simple truth as far as my acting career goes.
How does it translate? Well, we all want to be Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Vera Farmiga etc… those who wow us with their massive range. We want to show off the many characters in our internal menagerie, but trying to sell our wide range in the beginning makes it very hard to be memorable. We give ourselves a much better shot when we stop trying to prove we can be ten types, and focus on proving that we are the very best at one.
When asked, “What do you play?” we believe, “A broken hearted mom, a serial murderess, a sorority girl who’s really an undercover cop, a janitor who’s also a super hero, a trophy wife who steals cars, a drug addict with a heart of gold, ANYTHING YOU NEED!” is a truthful answer. And it may very well be, but realize that’s like advertising a bar of soap as “A sculpting material, a ring-getter-offer, a perfume, a cleaning product, a fun toy, ANYTHING YOU NEED!”
It can be too much to wrap our heads around, too broad. Plus, quite honestly, there are better toys out there.
Your new goal should be to start off by being your most basic obvious type. Be soap.
I know, that sucks to hear. “But, Paula, I can play so much more than just fill-in-the-blank! I don’t want to be typecast!” But you DO! At least in the beginning. Why? The main part of that word is CAST.
You want to work. And the quickest route to getting on set is embracing who it is you naturally are first. Make it easy for us to “get” you. I’m not saying you should or will only play one type forever, but build a name for yourself by building your brand FIRST.
Be the one that clearly beats out all soap competitors in any situation where soap is needed. Be the one we think of when we need soap. I may be getting carried away with this soap analogy. What I mean is, get your dang foot in the door, get them to love you, to know your name, THEN blow them away with your range by branching off into new territory.
Brand yourself. Typecast yourself. Own who you naturally are and wedge your shoe in the proverbial door that way.
Case in point, fellow MsInTheBiz.com contributor Taryn O’Neill branded herself as a badass. She trained in various fight styles, she got photos that embodied this brand, she took on roles in various web shows to get tons of footage of her being a badass. Now, I find it hard to think of casting a badass character without considering her. And I’m not alone. Can she play a mom, a vixen, a scientist? Oh hell yes she can (and does!) but FIRST we grasp her as a badass, THEN get impressed by her professionalism on set and her range.
For myself, though I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled the first time I realized this (but have since embraced it), I’m a living cartoon.
You need a video game princess, a southern belle, a spunky sprite, a quirky cute character, dare-I-say-it, an elf? I’m your gal. I’ve got a serious edge in any casting situation for such roles just because of what I look like, my size, and my sound – who I naturally am.
Most of the time, I’m gonna book the heck outta those roles. Then, once I’m on set and prove I’m damn reliable and not a jerk, I make friends and build my network of working pros. They’ll be more likely to give me a chance to read should a role outside of my brand come up down the road because they like working with me.
Shoot for the long game. The chance to show off your range will come.
Step 1 – Figure out your brand.
Look like Steve Buscemi? Embrace those slightly creepy/odd characters. Do people naturally run away from you in dark alleys? Rock your scary self. Do flowers practically sprout beneath your feet and animals try to talk to you? Disney Princess/Enchanted types come up more than you’d think on breakdowns. Realize the assets you naturally bring to the table. Be you.
Step 2 – Let everyone know your brand.
Put it on your website, focus on embracing it/conveying it in your headshots, get cards, blog about it, tweet about it, only stop short of tattooing it on your body (unless of course tattooed gal is your brand, in which case…). Once we “get” you, we can easily think of you any time that sort of role comes up.
Step 3 – Burst that door wide open with your range.
Disclaimer: All of that said, this business is a jungle for which there is no set path, what works for one may never work for anyone again. So, cut your own path, find what works for you. Any advice I have is based on what I’ve seen work/not work for myself and others and does not mean it’s the only way to go.